Archive for October 3rd, 2012

Introduction to Hebrews:

About our study: Hebrews is the appointed Epistle lesson this Sunday, Pentecost 19 and for 4 more Sundays in the three-year Lectionary.

Hebrews is part of the General or catholic (universal) Epistles.  These are all addressed to larger church/churches and not individuals.  Hebrews heads up this section.   The following is from the introduction to Hebrews in  The Lutheran Study Bible, page 2103, published by Concordia Publishing House.

 “The Epistle to the Hebrews is actually a sermon (“word of exhortation”; 13:22) with a brief  letter attached (13:20-25). The writing describes the temple sacrifices as though they were still in use (cf 9:6-10) and describes a persecution, which may be Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians at Rome (cf ch 12; 13:24). The sermon-writer’s name was not provided, nor was his name recorded by early Christian historians…

The writer of Hebrews, or his scribe, had an excellent education in classical oratory. Recent study of Hebrews has demonstrated that it is written in high Greek style, which distinguishes it from Paul’s more common Greek style. The writer’s doctrine depends on the apostles (2:3) and has important connections to Paul’s use of the OT (cf 10:38; Rm 1:17; Gal 3:11) and John’s theology of the Word (cf Jn 1:1- 2; 10:30; 14:11; Heb 1:3; 7:3; 13:8). But the writer includes many unique insights and shows an interest in the priesthood that is not found in other apostolic writers.”  

I think Hebrews demonstrates itself as a thoroughgoing Christian sermon also in these ways:

1)      The preacher puts himself in with his congregation by the use of “we” and “us”, e.g. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”  As Jesus Himself  shared our flesh and blood ( Hebrews 2:14), to make holy sinners by faith in Him, the Preacher is the same as his congregation.  Since Jesus is not ashamed to call them “brothers” (Hebrews 2:11), the preacher should not be as he is part of the brethren for whom Jesus died and rose again, the pioneer of Faith. Using cliché verbiage: the preacher identifies with the Lord’s people in their suffering and resultant flagging zeal for the Gospel and knows the inherent dangers in the possibility of even more severe persecution: see Hebrews 12:4 .

2)      He uses questions to engage his hearers in the sermon, e.g. Hebrews 3: 16-18. 

3)      A preacher quotes Scripture to attest to the truth of the message, as a preacher should.  The Preacher of Hebrews has copious Biblical citations: some 27 quotations in 13 chapters. Note that the 1st chapter employs many of the Scripture quotes as questions!

4)      The Preacher makes comparisons.  This is a clean rhetorical device for a speaker to make his case.  So in Hebrews these are the comparisons: 

      (a)  Angels and Jesus: Chapters 1-2: 4

     (b) Angels and Jesus and humankind: 2: 5-16

     (c)  Jesus and Moses: 3:1-4: 13

              1) rest in the wilderness wanderings/rest in Christ

     (d) The Sermon’s Central Sermonic Comparison: Old and    New Covenants: 4:14-10:16                                           

  1. Jesus the Great High Priest/priests:  4:14-5:10

  2. Melchizedek, the priest/Levitical priests: 7:1-8: 13

  3. Temple/tabernacle of Israel/heavenly Temple:  9:1-10

  4. Blood of sacrificial animals/Blood of Christ:  9: 11-20

Repetitive sacrifices in the Temple/One and For all Sacrifice: 10:1-16

Interspersed in the comparison sections  above are the exhortations.  He prefaces each with the “indicatives” of  “such a  great a salvation” (2: 2), then exhorts.  It is like a father saying to his child, “I love you” and she knows it.  Then, “You can do better in school”.  It never should be or implied to be by a mother or father the following: “Do well in school, then I will love you.”  

The word translated “exhortation” in this verse is in Greek, paraclesis.  Paraclesis is normally translate “encouragement”.  Please note it is related to a Name for the Holy Spirit:  Paraclete which is variously translated as Advocate, Counselor.  Paraclesis flows out of the Gospel of “so great a salvation”.

The Epistle for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost:  Hebrews 2: 1-18

Note:  These study questions are cited and adapted from a downloadable Bible Study from Concordia Publishing House:  A Longer Look at the Lessons: Year B – Pentecost II (Downloadable)

Study Questions

  1.  What is an angel?  Take the new and improved Angelic Quiz below!
  2. Which verses are the first exhortation section? Which verses is the basis of this first exhortation? What is the Preacher’s encouragement to the congregation?
  3.  What was the message declared by angels? How seriously binding was it?
  4.   Why is response to and faithfulness to “such a great salvation . . . declared at first by the Lord, and . . . attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will” of far greater importance? (See John 3:34–36.) The writer quoted Psalm 8, applying its statements about mankind to Jesus.
  5.   For what surprising purpose was the Son made “lower than the angels”?
  6.  How was “the founder of their salvation [made] perfect through suffering”?To emphasize the Son’s full identification with our humanity as Jesus, the writer said that both Jesus and we have one ___, and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us ___. To back this up, he quoted from Psalm 22: “I will tell of Your name to ___” and “in the midst of ___ I will sing Your praise.”
  7.  As the author of Hebrews used these quotes from the Old Testament, who did he say said them?   We might expect the text to read, “He shared our flesh and blood humanity to live with us.” Instead, it focuses immediately on the supreme evidence of His complete, redemptive identity with us, His death.
  8.  What is it about the death of Jesus that destroyed the one who holds the power of death? How does the death of Jesus free us from slavery under the fear of death? (See 1 Corinthians 15:50–58; 2 Timothy 1:8–10.) For what does the death of Jesus free us? (See 2 Corinthians 5:14–15.)
  9. The  emphasize that the destruction of the one who holds the power of death and the freedom of those who were slaves under the fear of death is not just some spiritual imagery, the writer states that it is not ___ that the incarnate Son of God helps, but it is ___.
  10.  Why did Jesus have to be made like us in every respect to be our merciful and faithful high priest and make propitiation for the sins of the people? What comfort is there for us when tempted in the fact that Jesus shared the full human experience, including temptation, and overcame? What encouragement does it give us?

 Angelic Quiz

  1. The most reliable source about angels is Jewish folklore. 
  2. The word “angel” literally means a woman with wings.
  3. Angels are created.
  4. Angels sing.
  5. Angels are ministering spirits sent to serve us.
  6. Human beings can “earn their wings” and become angels.
  7. Angels are dumb.
  8. There are ranks of angels, kind of like in the army.
  9. Lucifer, or the devil, is a fallen angel.
  10. We are to pray to angels because they are heavenly beings.
  11. Angels are spiritual beings.
  12. There was war in heaven.
  13. We know the name of some of the angels.
  14. There are guardian angels.
  15. Angels usually provoke fear in people.
  16. Jesus was made lower than the angels yet He is superior to them.
  17. The angels’ favorite musical instrument is the harp.
  18. This is the best quiz on angels I have ever taken!

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